Bike Culture & Anime: A Conversation with Kai Lumieres
When I first met Kai in New York back in August he asked me if I could take some pics of his collaborative belt with Rye Decker. Of course, I said yes, and we ended up at some random cross street in Chinatown shooting detail shots of the "Speed Demon" belt. During the shoot Kai loosely creative directed us but really was just focussed on grabbing some ramen after the shoot wrapped. All jokes aside, Kai’s brand Lumieres has grown immensely since I first saw a small line carried at stores like 424 & Machus.
Recently Kai dropped a vast range of graphic tees, cut and sew cargos and a slim fitting leather jacket with Lumieres branding. Be sure to check out his full interview with us below and check out his web store here.
For those that aren't familiar with you or your brand, could you give is a brief introduction/ overview?
"Hey! my name is Kai, Vietnamese, not Japanese. I started Lumieres officially about 3 years ago when I moved to Los Angeles when I was 18!"
Photos by Fiona O'hanlan
How did you begin designing clothes, what was the initial thought process behind the brand?
"I started playing with photoshop when I used to be on all these anime and MMO forums. One day, someone said I should put the design I did for a forum signature into clothing, so I did! It was the "He Who is Brave is Free" design. At first, it was easy, all fun and games, until I started cut and sew."
This season you seem to focus on motorcycle culture, what connection do you have to that?
For the past few seasons actually, I've been focusing on different motorcycle cultures or subcultures around the world. I don't think I'm doing it any justice though so it won't go away anytime soon in term of inspirations. Growing up in Vietnam, to even own a motorcycle at the time you have to be in the upper middle class. That being said, my whole family was bikers, my dad was in a club, my mom rode a Harley to deliver medicine to a pharmacy for my great uncle's company. When I moved to Minnesota, I started to become a prospect for a club there and worked at a bar on a lake by our house. That's the overview of it haha.
You said in an Instagram caption that this season was your first cut and sew collection, what was that process like?
"Hell, the process was hell, I shouldn't have told anyone I even started cut and sew. Besides having to work with whatever resources I have & being on a low budget, I had to deal with people trying to screw me over knowing I'm still in the learning process of it. We got guys paid off an entire factory and then told the factory they can't make my clothes anymore haha. It's fun though! I know every type of sewing machine now, hundred types of stitching, dying process and all that. Something I don't think I could learn all this in school."
A lot of people might not know how hard it is to make original graphics for prints, what can you say about some of your graphics for this season?
"Well, most of them are inspired by vintage biker graphic from the 60s-70s, I personally only drew one of them for this drop. With the help of many talented artists in LA in the motorcycle scene, I'm sitting on so many crazy graphics right now I can't wait to release. But, yes it is difficult, especially working with great artists that know exactly what they want, even though they understand that I will mess with the graphic on photoshop, I try not to fuck it up too much and disrespect their original drawing! Also, I switched one of the graphic like 6 times, a different type of bike with the grim reaper, the artist was furious, each bike took him like 4-5 hours to sketch. "
Is there one piece, in particular, that means a lot to you in this current collection?
"The pants, Jesus.... so much sweat and money went into that."
What is next for you and the brand, what are some of your goals for 2018?
Man, I already started on this crazy collection for 2018 part 2, along with working on a couple collaborations with a couple of my favorite brands from Japan and Los Angeles. I'm focusing on building relationships with stockists around the world right now, talking about pop up shops from Japan to Milan, LA, and New York. It's hard to explain my goals because it is such a big picture I can't really narrow it down to a list of things. I'll show you guys instead of telling y'all about it.